Fitzwilliam Darcy paced the empty library at Netherfield Hall. He was exceedingly relieved to have some time to his own thoughts. Caroline Bingley had been following him wherever he went, teasing him about fine eyes and relatives in Cheapside, ever since he had mentioned his appreciation of Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
And ought he not to be chastised for these thoughts? Certainly not by Miss Bingley, whose rank was below Elizabeth’s, but by himself? Miss Elizabeth’s connections were not what he should want in a family; in fact, they were so lacking that he cringed to think of it. Regardless, he could not stop thinking of her.
He was surrounded by young women who were interested in his status and his fortune. He was hardly a man when he had learned how to disengage from such women, who only cared for what he had and not a bit for what he thought or believed. When he had first laid eyes on Miss Elizabeth, he had assumed that she would fall into this category; who would expect a higher class of woman to be found at a country dance?
But then her fine humor and intelligence had made themselves known, and Darcy began to find beauty in places where he before had only noticed flaws. He craved the sound of her laughter, and wished to be the one who inspired her smile. Almost before he knew what had happened, he had strong feelings for the young woman.
But oh, her family! Her utterly ridiculous family! Mrs. Bennet was loud, crude, and overstepped herself almost continually. The youngest girls were silly fools. Mary was far too severe, and carried herself as if she was morally superior to all of those around her. And their father allowed all this! Darcy could not excuse Mr. Bennet from fault, as he had clearly not attempted to stem these coarse behaviors.
The best thing to do would be to forget Elizabeth Bennet. But how could that be accomplished, when he saw her so continually? He had to go back to town. That would resolve this issue. The distance would make it easier for him to forget his attraction to her. He had told Bingley that he would be present for the upcoming ball, but after that Darcy needed to make his excuses and escape to the safety of his home.
That presented another issue, however. Bingley was exceedingly fond of Miss Jane Bennet. How could Darcy think only to save himself, and not his friend, as well? He began to consider how he could extricate Bingley from the situation as well. Ought he to manufacture a scenario that required both of them to leave for London? Perhaps Bingley’s attachment to Miss Bennet would fade with the distance, just as Darcy hoped that his attachment to Miss Elizabeth would.
He mulled this thought over in his mind, before dismissing it. He would give Bingley the opportunity to leave with him, but he could not bring himself to speak out against Miss Jane Bennet, who seemed to him to be a fine girl, if a bit lacking in spirit.
Miss Elizabeth was not lacking in spirit; in fact, she had it in excess. That fire was one of the things by which Darcy was so enchanted. He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. He could not marry Miss Elizabeth, and so he must leave Netherfield until his emotions were under control. It was the only rational thing to do.